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17044: Raber: Re: 17041: Pierre: Reply to Corbett and Corbett replies to Pierre (fwd)

From: P&M Raber <raber@valkyrie.net>

As one who happens to be related to Sajous and Hudicourt and who also is a
bourgeois and has served 6 years as a missionary dentist in my birth country
of Haiti, I feel that I should put my two cents in.  I must say that when I
went as a health care professional to the countryside of Haiti, I felt both
admiration and prejudice from upper class Haitians.  Admiration that I would
follow a family's example of service to others.   Prejudice that I would
associate myself with a group of Americans generally looked down upon by
upper class Haitians.  I say "as a group" since most upper class Haitians
have very good friends who are missionaries but they consider that those
friends are the exception.  As a child growing up as a bourgeois in Haiti,
here are the adjectives I heard spoken about missionaries: hard workers,
dirty, backwards, smelly, not educated, speak Creole like peasants, a little
too close to the farm animals etc...  Classified a missionary, I felt
definitely labeled and heard jokes in my face.  I know that the Haitian way
is to say jokes to people's faces but there was a little extra irony thrown
in there.  When I would go into Port-au-Prince I would be defending the
missionaries and when I went back to the countryside, I would be defending
the upper class.  Anyhow, I have been a bourgeois, a missionary, a Diaspora,
a Haitian, an American , Catholic school educated , then private protestant
college educated.  The college I went to spends a tremendous amount of money
sending all of their students for one semester in a third world country to
"serve".  Ironically I have heard people associated with that college bring
up the don't visit, just send the money argument about missionaries.  That
college knows what it's doing.  A huge percentage of its graduates (many of
them in healthcare) end up working in underserved areas all around the world
and donate lots of money to many charitable projects.  Actually several
college friends of mine are now paying for a college education (in the
States) for a very bright young man I encountered at the mission in Haiti.
The hope is to train him in a field non-existent in Haiti but that will also
be income-generating for him.  I am aware that unless he can earn a good
income in Haiti, he cannot go back and that once educated in the field we
are shooting for, the US will welcome him with open arms.   After college I
was exposed to a cross section of  Americans for the first time at a State
Dental School.  Let's say that I first heard Rush Limbaugh for 3 hours twice
a week in my second year technique class where an entire bench of guys loved
him and brought a radio to the lab.   I am pleased to say that that school
has now incorporated volunteerism as part of the curriculum.  Some of it is
local but groups also go abroad.  Ten almost dentists (they graduate 2
months after their visit)have been going to Haiti for the past three years.
They acquire tremendous fund raising skills while fundraising for their
trip.  They also get companies to donate thousands of dollars worth of
dental supplies that are not available in Haiti.  After their visit most are
committed to serve the underprivileged around the world or in their own

My experiences on all different sides of the fence makes me concur with Bob
Corbett's argument.

Money is given by people AFTER they have visited a specific project/mission
(and they get all their church friends and relatives to send way more than
the 1000 THEY (not the mission or project) invested.  The money keeps
flowing into Haiti for years.

If one expects total strangers to Haiti to send money, let's also raise that
same argument and ask all the Diaspora not to visit as often and send the
extra money to their families or projects they know about.

Most missions try to work themselves out of a job by training locals.
Unfortunately since the funding keeps on being needed from abroad, there is
always  the necessity for American involvement.  Where I was in Haiti, there
is now one of the best dental clinics in Haiti and all the staff is local.
The Haitian dentist who has worked along me was very talented and has
learned all I knew exceeding my abilities in many areas.  The dental
assistants are basically dental nurses.  They can do small fillings (white
and Amalgams), pull any teeth out, place preventive sealants, clean teeth
squeaky clean that have not been cleaned for 45 years and so on.  Those
assistants have a better understanding and respect of infection control than
some of the Americans professionals who visited.  The maintenance person at
that mission is also now Haitian (although he has a hard time with dental
equipment).  From a peak of around 16 American missionaries, there are now
2.    After 20 years the directors are Haitians.  In 1978, they could not
find an area person who had completed 6th grade.  It takes years to train
the people to take over.  It actually takes raising the level of education
of the entire community before leadership can be turned over.  Even if a
project can be achieved for 20% of the cost by bypassing Americans, we all
know how Haiti functions.  Unless the groundwork is established first over
many years, any money sent will end up lining pockets or will be misused.  I
have found that even honest people have a hard time understanding that
projects need completed.  Some prefer having a 10 room clinic without a roof
to be completed in 5 years than a complete 5 room in 1 year.  There is also
a difficult understanding of "designated money".  Most of us who have lived
in Haiti have given money to someone for school or medicines to find out
later that it was used on food or to repay a loan after the lender came
screaming in the village.  Let's say an organization sends 10 thousand
dollars for digging wells.  The locals may want a new school building
instead.   2/3 of the  funds are used for schools since the community little
girls are used to walking 3 miles to fetch water.  Organization gets mad and
will not send the rest of the 20 thousand they were planning to give for the
school and clinic.   In a way these are cultural differences but as long as
the money is coming from abroad,  certain copmpromises are necessary to keep
the funds flowing.  Sometimes it means giving priority to a valid but not as
urgent project.

Now one of the problems missions encounter is that once they train someone
for a specific job, that person leaves for higher paying jobs in town or go
start their own school or business in whatever they are trained to do.  Or
they start accepting side jobs and start acting like a Haitian government
employee would and barely showing up for work.  Of course the argument could
be raised that the mission could pay that person more but then they run into
the ethical dilemma of whether one mission employee's salary should be that
much higher that the others just because they are in demand in
Port-au-Prince.  Where I was at,  teachers were the measuring stick.  Nobody
could be paid more than a certain amount above teachers since the bulk of
monthly expenses went to pay teachers.

For complex jobs like fancy electrical wiring or installing equipment, it is
at times best to have a foreigner.  Haitian specialists can come in from
Port-au-Prince, start a job and not finish or make a mistake.  Then it takes
months before that much in demand specialist comes around again.  A problem
faced by especially young missions is that they do not know where to go for
some types of labor.  In Haiti, any guy who ever swept the floor of an
operating room is a nurse, any guy who spent three months as an apprentice
is a mechanic and diplomas are for sale.  Americans tend to put too much
trust in the first guy who can speak English and they get burnt, forever
importing labor from the States

Now to be fair, let me tell you that there is plenty of prejudice from
American missionaries towards the Haitian elite  (except those they know of
course).  There is also stiff competition between missions.  There are also
a few missions that are plain bad.  The people in charge are just faking to
be doing something to make money but those are the exception, not the rule.
I was on the inside and visited many other missions.  I enjoyed seeing what
others were doing in my country and this at times made the Americans
directors at our mission a little upset especially if I took visitors along
(supporter hogging).   Crooks exist in every country, culture, religion,
social class, ethnic groups.  There are also those doing a type of mission
work that others find useless.  There are also people in mission work trying
to escape the fact that they are failures in their own society.  I could go
on and on.  BUT, as I said before, the people judging should not be those
sitting far away but the communities being served.  When a mission (lay or
religious) moves into an area, all of a sudden the people have schools,
potable water, some access to healthcare etc.... All things that should be
provided by the Haitian government

In an ideal world where all people would have high moral standards,
cross-cultural understanding and tolerance, where  people would do something
not because it feels good, but because it is right, Hudicourt's and Sajous'
point is right on..  It is actually the subject of a book called "Revolution
in world missions" which encourages Americans to support local missionaries.
I wish I could give you the name of the Indian author but I left it in
Haiti.  Two other great (and funny)books are :

"Don't let the goats eat the loquat trees" by Thomas Hale, surgeon in Nepal
and "Near the Far Bamboo" an insightful look at cross-cultural clashes
through the eyes of a tentmaking missionary by Martin St. Kilda (pen name of
Dr. Wade Bradshaw, a veterinarian )

----- Original Message -----
From: "Bob Corbett" <corbetre@webster.edu>
To: "Haiti mailing list" <haiti@lists.webster.edu>
Sent: Saturday, October 25, 2003 2:36 PM
Subject: 17041: Pierre: Reply to Corbett and Corbett replies to Pierre

> From: Sajousp@aol.com
> In a message dated 10/24/2003 3:56:35 PM Central Daylight Time,
> corbetre@webster.edu writes:
>       Corbett replies.  I think this argument is GROSSLY flawed and
>       misses so
>       much of the real experience.
> You rightly stated above that you" think", I believe that you are not
> about to categorically claim it is. Do you believe that your mission
> experience is the rule for Haiti ? I would rather argue that it is an
> exception.To argue that this argument is flawed is to defy all the logic
> of economics. Granted the people who are spending their money on a mission
> work to Haiti is in their rights, it is their money. The argument by
> Hudicourt fits rightly into the economic reality of advanced societies vs
> "non advanced ones.  If Hudicourt's argument is flawed then US wouldn't
> have had the problems of losing jobs to China.  Recently a project in Iraq
> which was to cost millions was achieved by Iraquis for $80,000.This week
> referring to the progress made by the US on the war on terrorism Rumsfeld
> in his leaked memo mentioned the cost benefit analysis issue "it is
> costing the US billions to fight the war while it costs the terrorists
> millions".Therefore it is difficult to argue that the money spent by
> missionaries in Haiti would not go farther if it was spent by using local
> help.
> Pierrot
> ================
> Pierrot, I not sure I disagree with anything you say above.  My position,
> as spelled out earlier contains two parts which, however, would lead me to
> think the OUTCOME is not what you suggest.
> 1.  I used my own case to argue that the sum of money spent by the
> folks who go to Haiti on such missionary (or work trips in my
> case -- since mine were non-sectarian trips, not mission trips)
> would not be the sum of money in the real world.  That, what
> I argued, the people on those trips, over a long period of time
> were the source of yet NEW monies to be used for other projects.
> You simply dismiss that argument by saying my experience was, if
> not unique, an unusual experience.
> I can't really speak to that.  I don't know that it is or isn't
> true.  I have a hard time believing that it is so unusual since my
> groups tended to be ordinary folks and had an ordinary experience
> much like what I have seen with other mission and work groups.  I
> don't really know what their experience has been in terms of those
> folks who came on such trips then going back to their home
> countries and become a source of further funds for the NGO.
> But, I'm not much persuaded by the argument that just says:
> pay the argument no mind since it isn't a general experience.
> I'll defer to others with experience of such NGO work and mission
> trips to Haiti to let me know if my experience was indeed so
> atypical or whether or not the mission or work trips were then,
> in fact, stimuli for those folks to find and contribute new
> monies to the pool, which you argument doesn't allow to exist.
> 2.  However, the brunt of my argument was that the argument you and
> Hudicourt make is an counterfactual IF -- THEN argument.  If
> the money were used differently it would have better consequences.
> As a hypothetical argument of exconomics I don't disagree with it.
> My objection to the orginal argument, and your rehearsal of the
> same argument is that it is falacious to assume the money would
> be there in the first place if it weren't for the TRIP .
> I have tried to raise money for my organization independent of the
> people who have gone to Haiti with me, and raising money isn't
> easy.  I certain have raised some that way, a good deal actually.
> But, the money that people put up to go on a work trip with me,
> and I strongly suspect, a mission trip with others, would NOT
> LIKELY be donated (isn't in fact donated very often) by people
> who are not going on such a trip.
> Thus the brunt of my argument was not to deny the consequent of
> the if -- then argument, but the PREMISE.  That the money would
> be there to use in the first place.
> I was not offering an argument rooted in theoretical economics.  I was
> raising a real life argument about the sources and nature of raising money
> for doing work in the country of Haiti.
> I think you argument simply makes a falacious assumption in the real
> world:  there is in fact this pile of money TO DO WITH WHAT ONE WILL.
> Rather, I am arguing is that the pile of money that goes into such a trip
> to Haiti is money motivated in significant measure by the desire to have
> this experience itself.  To the extent that argument is true, the money is
> not there for the hypothetical argument you and Hudicourt make.
> Bob Corbett